The tragic story of two kayakers killed this summer by a hungry grizzly in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the focus of a captivating cautionary tale about global warming’s effects on wildlife in the latest issue of National Geographic’s Adventure Magazine — like unto Grizzly Man, but without the intentional disregard for sensible caution. Scarce food’s been getting scarcer for caribou in the refuge and making already-hungry tundra grizzlies more and more aggressive, sometimes fatally so.

According to a 2002 U.S. Geological Survey report, increased spring snow and ice [in the Arctic Refuge] — a paradoxical result of global warming trends — is burying the coastal plain plants essential to caribou and grizzly diets. The caribou are decreasing in number or seeking grazing land elsewhere, and the barren ground grizzlies, bereft of this supplemental protein, have been stalking the tundra for alternatives.

And in June, one bear found an alternative in the two seasoned backcountry travelers as they slept in their tent. “The freaky thing,” says area police officer Richard Holschen, “is that they did most everything right” in terms of bear-related precautions, and were killed anyway.

National Geographic also touches on the possibility of more such incidents as the Arctic Refuge has gained increasing exposure in the news. As the refuge has come closer and closer to being drilled, more and more people have been inspired to visit.

Each time the specter of Alaska oil drilling is raised in Washington, D.C., the number of visitors goes up: from 679 prior to 2000 to an annual average of 1,010 in 2004, not counting frequent trips by local indigenous people.

But the bears aren’t the only ones upset by all this. Apparently, a growing number of people think the end is more or less nigh.  

So it looks like you’re not alone thinking the world’s ills get overwhelming at times. Sort of makes one want to escape to a remote wilderness somewhere …